Just before sunrise, the sky brightens. My neighbor's security light goes off, and his dogs shift restlessly. I can hear the birds getting busy already.
New Orleans is where I live, where I choose to be. It's a time of trial and frustration, when simple things are never so simple. But in the morning light, I know the sunshine will not be far behind.
My pretty little house in Vista Park sits idle. Still waiting for resolution of the fire investigation, still waiting for the okay to tear it down and start rebuilding.
I have two neighbors who are well on their way to recovery. Via the neighborhood email list, we've been chatting about our plans and our progress. Steve and Julie recently reached a major milestone in their journey to "normal." They write:
"We finally got the bid from our builder and we have a great house plan we can afford! YEAH! Will sign the contract Monday morning and it will probably be a month before he can start. Will share more details as we learn about them. Still aiming to move in by Christmas! I'm so excited!!!!!! We're coming home!!!!!"
Around the corner, another neighbor making that journey responds:
"yeah Julie!!! I'm right there with you, it's going to be a race to that steak dinner :) My contractor has the plans ready, they are being stamped next week and taken to safety and permits, they said it would take 10 days for the review process. We are also thinking it will be about a month before we start and still hoping for Christmas.
"Hey Julie, if we are both in our houses at Christmas we should have a "neighborhood" dinner....or maybe one of those dinners where you do a different course at each persons house!!"
And here's the amazing thing about it. I don't know if April and Steve and Julie knew each other before Hurricane Katrina. I don't know that they ever conversed so easily, so filled with hope and support for each other. I knew a lot of my neighbors before the storm, but I know so many more now.
We have so much more in common. Our fates are so tightly tied together we almost can't help but be friends.
Ronald Reagan talked about "Morning in America," about the hope and the promise of a new day. As I admire the first glimmer of morning today, I feel that same hope for a better day that my neighbors feel, that the whole city of New Orleans must feel if we are going to survive this catastrophe.
Good morning, New Orleans. Rise and shine!